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Comforting or Creepy? Google to Provide a Monthly Report of What It Knows About You


"step back and take stock of what you're doing online"

We all know that online tracking is increasing but to what extent is your activity being watched? In an effort to be more transparent, Google is helping you "step back and take stock of what you're doing online" with a new optional feature called Account Activity.

(Related: Google's new privacy policy rolls out today despite opposition)

If you sign-up for the service, Account Activity will provide you with a monthly report of all your online activities using Google products. Here's an example from the company's Public Policy blog post on the new feature:

For example, my most recent Account Activity report told me that I sent 5 percent more email than the previous month and received 3 percent more. An Italian hotel was my top Gmail contact for the month. I conducted 12 percent more Google searches than in the previous month, and my top queries reflected the vacation I was planning: [rome] and [hotel].

Here's what the report will provide each month according to Google:

  • Transparency and control
  • Summarized data associated with each product you use when signed in to your account
  • Links to change your personal settings.

According to the blog post, activating this service could in fact allow you more privacy online as it will give you insight about your Internet movements when you've been signed on to a Google account. Here's another example of how the service could be useful:

For example, if you notice sign-ins from countries where you haven’t been or devices you’ve never owned, you can change your password immediately and sign up for the extra level of security provided by 2-step verification.

You can opt-in to Account Activity here.

This feature comes as the Federal Trade Commission issued a report this week calling for web users to be given more control over the information collected about them while online. Suggestions include more transparent data collection and a Do Not Track feature, which would allow users to prevent companies from monitoring movements on the web.

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